Monday, October 1, 2012

A Dutch Paradox

I am uncertain if there are too many countries anymore who preserve the sanctity of Sundays.  I was born and raised in the Philippines, and although it’s a supposedly a staunchly Catholic country, guess where churchgoers flock to after mass?  The mall.  Where I live in America now is also the same.  Sundays are a lot slower, but if one desired, one can linger around establishments of commerce. 

I’m in the east of Holland for another day and after getting ready this morning, we offered to get the bread from the echte bakker a few minutes away.  The sun was out and it was a good excuse to get on a bicycle.  My Dutch hosts gave me a laugh.  “The bakker is closed on Sundays.”  Oh.  In fact, hardly anything is open on Sundays.  Everything about that makes sense but having growing up in Asia and having spent the last half decade in America, this is, sadly, a very foreign concept.

Which begs this question to be answered then: “What do the Dutch do on Sundays?”

They spend time with family and in the northwestern part, that familial jamboree takes place at the beach called Zandvoort.  Don’t get grandiose ideas of aquamarine shores like the Caribbean.  It’s windy and cold this time of the year.  There aren’t beautiful mountain backdrops to gaze at.  Instead, there are cruise ships docked and a massive steel factory.  It is actually rather ugly. 

But if there’s anything I respect about the Dutch, they do with what they have and they plan to do it very well.  (Remember, this is a country where about 20% lies below sea level and habitation has been made possible by marvelous Dutch engineering).  Turn your back on the industrial mess and hike down the sand dunes.  It’s a great place for play.  Cars and cars are parked bumper to bumper on both sides of the road and you would see middle aged men quickly changing in their wetsuits, kite surf waiting on the pavement.  The high winds, waves and the North Sea are all conducive for an apparently favorite Dutch weekend excursion.  Who knew I’d find something like this here?

When the Dutch are ready to warm up after a day being windswept on the beach, they flock in droves to the beachside shacks.  Aloha seems like an institution for Sunday outdoor-worshippers.  Men in wetsuits walking barefeet, children, dogs, hippies, well-dressed young families – they congregate here to chat, eat, drink coffee, or have tea.  As cold as it was outside, Aloha has that Dutch gezzelig that transports you to a surf shack in Hawaii.  The food and coffee are good, the music great, and the wifi free.  Aloha inderdaad!  

Dutch taxes have gone up by 2% today.  Time to move on in this adventure.  To Belgium!

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